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HOŞAP (GÜZELSU)

hosap1Of all Turkey's many dramatically located castles Hoşap Kalesi (castle, AKA Mahmudiye Kalesi or Narin Kale), southeast of Van on the road to Hakkari, must be one of the most striking. High up on a tall rock the castle spreads itself out over a sizeable area completely dominating the dusty little settlement at the foot of the rock. It was almost certainly precded by an Urartian castle, now lost. 

By Turkish standards, the castle is not particularly old having been commissioned in the 1643 by Sarı Süleyman Mahmudi, a local Kurdish chieftain whose family had acquired the area from the Karakoyunlu (Black Sheep) dynasty in the late 14th century. In their guide to Eastern Turkey the Nişanyans suggest that the family may originally have been Yezidis who converted to Islam as late as the 1580s.

Today a road runs round the back of the rock and deposits visitors in front of the magnificent main gate set into a round tower which features carvings of two lions, a Mardin-style but multi-coloured teardrop and an inscription in Persian dating the building to 1643.hosap2

Inside the gate a slippery stepped tunnel ascends to the interior of the castle. Restoration work that had been ongoing has apparently been stopped as inappropriate, which is presumably to judge by one of the external round towers that has been given the favoured Toytown look of contemporary castle renovators.

What this means is that in the interim there is little information inside to help you identify the various rooms, and some parts remain off limits. Still, the castle had been closed to the public for many years so things are surely moving in the right direction.

In its heyday the castle is said to have boasted more than 100 rooms, as well as several hamams and the inevitable dungeon that can still be made out today. 

The views from the ramparts are predictably fantastic, especially when you look back over the rear of the village at a line of mud-brick outer defences that looks as if it might be the back of a stegosaurus. There are also remains of towers built onto a lost lower wall of the castle plus the collapsed remains of what used to be the Kale Cami (mosque), presumably to be rebuilt any time soon.

hosap3Other structures around the village have also been restored recently although little information has been provided to suggest their dates. Finest of the minor monuments is the striped, triple-arched Evliya Bey Köprüsü (Bridge) over the Hoşap stream that was erected in 1671 and now provides a picture-perfect backdrop for a small riverside tea garden.

At the southern end of the village is the Mulla Ömer Cami, originally built in 1700 but destroyed in 1914 during a Russian invasion. From 1942 to 1956 the ruins served as a school house, before the mosque was rebuilt in 1988. What looks like a Selçuk türbe (tomb) in the grounds is preumably much more recent than that.

Also scattered about the village are a medrese whose similarly Selçuk-looking türbe has a fine carved entrance and the Hasan Bey türbe and medrese at the start of the village as you come in from Van. Neither offers any information as regards its history. hosap4

Sleeping

There is nowhere to stay in Hoşap. Most people visit from Van. 

Transport info

Minibuses to Hoşap leave from the southern end of Cumhuriyet Caddesi in Van. Don't leave it too late to start back again. 

On the way to or from Hoşap you might also want to visit the Urartian ruins at Çavuştepe and/or the imposing church at Albayrak with, beyond it, the "Little Cappadocia" at Yavuzler Köyü.

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